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Broncos’ special teams aiming for explosiveness

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Brock Olivo and the Denver Broncos special teams unit wants to be aggressive and make big plays.

NFL: Denver Broncos-Minicamp Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

New Denver Broncos special teams coordinator, Brock Olivo, is looking to bring some explosiveness to his side of the ball. He wants his returners to be aggressive and make plays.

“We definitely want them to be aggressive, there’s no question,” Olivo explained. “There’s always that fine line though. You’ve got to be smart as well. We’re going to err on the side of being aggressive, especially when you have a young guy like that. We have a couple of dynamic guys now in install. We definitely want to keep the pressure on the punt team, there’s no question. Making good decisions back there is the number one most important thing as a returner.”

There is that fine line and Olivo wants to walk it as closely as possible. Being too aggressive will result in some costly turnovers and big plays for the other team, but simply going back there and downing punts when the offense is coming off such a down year is also a bit risky.

Big plays translate to points in almost every instance, and nothing can change a game faster than a big play on special teams. A big part of that will come from rookie wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. His small size and speed could be an important factor for the special teams unit.

“The first thing is to get him comfortable back there catching the football,” Olivo said of McKenzie. “He’s a natural catcher. When he got to us, he was a good catcher. As you guys know, it’s a little bit different here in the NFL. He’s going to have gunners in his face at times, PPs (punt protectors) in his face at times, so we have to get him comfortable back there and get him to trust the system. He has to trust that it’s going to be there. The thing that I love about Isaiah is that he’s got all the confidence in the world in himself. I think he’s going to be just fine.”

The nuances of NFL punt coverage is going to be a bit different than what McKenzie faced in college. He may think he can do things that will result in him having the pain brought down on him or force him to make costly turnovers.

It sounds like Olivo and his staff are wholly focused on getting that mental aspect of being an NFL punt returner down to a science for McKenzie.

If there is one area we fans won’t have to worry about is that of energy. Olivo’s biggest strength is clearly his infectious high-energy attitude in everything he does. It seems less like a rah-rah kind of shtick that gets old after a while and more like that enthusiasm you only see from people who truly love what they do.

“That’s part of being a special teamer,” Olivo said of maintaining a high-level of energy in practice. “That’s that niche part of it that makes it special. The guys know that we have a small, small window to work in. We’re high energy in the meeting room and we’re high energy on the field. The guys feed off that and they feed of each other. My assistant Chris Gould does a great job of doing that, too. We all kind of rally the troops and roll. We have a really good young class because we ask those guys to fill in on look teams all the time. They’re roaring down the field and giving us a great look. We’re really fortunate to have the guys here now that we have, and that lends to that. Vance, too, he’s out there with us step for step so that helps.”

This team, from offense to defense and to special teams, just seems to have a different vibe. They are excited for this season and they can’t wait to go out and play.

I’ve personally been around this long enough - as have many of you reading - to know what cliche looks and sounds like. We hear these stories every year and some years just feel more real and authentic than others.

Football and winning games isn’t just executing plays and having the talent. It’s also guys wanting to go the extra mile and compete to the very end. This group of players has usually had all three phases of that (save for the offense last year), but even the defensive unit was starting to show cracks in their desire to fight to the very end at times last year.

It goes back to what defensive coordinator Joe Woods said earlier this week. It’s not about offense or defense ... it’s about “we-fence”. And that we-fence includes special teams.

It’s going to be a fun season, Broncos Country!

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